Saturday, March 16, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Almost Spring at Claiborne

Guest blogger Lindsay Hunter takes a special mare to revisit  War Front, and while we hope every made is successfully bred, we cross our fingers a little tighter for this one.

Sunshine, Daffodils & Claiborne 3.14.13

For a change, the sun was shining brightly this March morning, and wrapped up against the chill, I set off for the barn in high spirits. Looked like a great day to get horses worked outside, even though the footing was just passable. Abby and I got chores done and five out before lunchtime rolled around.
The elegant bay mare that I load for the trip to Paris is a return breeding from a few weeks ago. The dam of a Breeders Cup winner, earner of $652,000, her last foal came in 2008. She herself earned a half million dollars, and so a baby out of her could be worth a pretty penny at the sales, if she could get in foal just one more time. Her coat is short and slick, testament to the good care she is getting in order to accomplish that goal. She shows her age in the leanness of her face, but her good quality is immediately evident to the beholder.
Date for today : A return trip to War Front, champion son of Danzig.
Driving out between the stone fences of Paris Pike, just past the County Line between Fayette and Bourbon Counties, I fall in behind a Sallee van. This far down the pike, at this time of day, there is a good chance it ,too, is headed for Claiborne’s breeding shed. My powerful Ford Turbo diesel could easily pass the van, but, in respect of the unwritten van driver code of ethics, it would be infra dig to race by and beat him to the shed, so I just settle in tandem.
Through the main thoroughfare into Paris, turning right at the Family Dollar’s big red sign, we cruise on out to the stone pillars and the wide tarmac entrance on the left in the curve. Across the narrow one lane bridge bordered by white poles, and into the shaded parking area. Behind the Sallee van, which backs up to the long low gravel dock, I pulled around and reverse carefully into the marked trailer parking. I am third in line.
Soon there are more trucks and trailer coming down the long driveway. They back carefully into the spaces, while another van driver, first time to Claiborne, anxious runs to the shed with his mares’ papers, where John explains you get bred in the order in which you arrive.
Egyptian geese peck in the grass lining the flowing creek, sun sparkling off the little ripples as it drops over the dam. More geese scull through the water at the edges, the swans are nowhere to be seen.
A rustle of activity at the shed and John hollers out for the first mare to come on in.
Jay Brunker from Halcyon Farm and Wayne Martin from Denali chat in the parking lot by their trailers, enjoying the sunshine.
Claiborne’s routine has remained the same for decades. No fancy barns, no opulent entrance, a working farm dedicated to doing things the right way. And it has worked well, proven by the quality racehorses that have their roots at Claiborne, and by the internationally acclaimed stallion rosters that year after year attract mares from all over the world.
Maybe the only things that change are a fresh coat of paint, sunflower yellow, and the personnel, who are often third generation Claiborne employees.
My mare is unconcerned, going through the motions of teasing, prepping and breeding like she has many times before. War Front is quiet and professional, waiting til she is readied by the shed crew, and then breeding her in one smooth jump. She gets an extra dose of semen from the dismount sample, perhaps enough to insure that a pregnancy results this time.
Back down Paris Pike, I’m forced to break hard behind a soccer mom in an electric car, who suddenly decides she can pull out of a side road and beat the trailer but then slows to a crawl. The bane of my driving existence. NNY is on her license plate, and I think “Yeah, she’s a ninny, alright “.
It’s after hours at the farm, and I unload the mare back to her stall. The rest of the mares in her barn are quietly munching their hay, and she is glad to get to her dinner.

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